About Me

Howdy!

My name is Chris Miller, and I’m glad that you made your way here.

I build and repair fretted musical instruments; my main interest is building relative reproductions (tributes?) of acoustic guitars from the 1930’s. I have studied and made templates of exceptional Gibson guitars of the 1930s and early 1940s, and I have dedicated myself to living up to (if not exceeding) the standard set by these remarkable instruments. I am currently taking commissions for L-OO and J-45 styles, and 14-fret O bodied guitars.  I am aware that my base price is low within the industry, which reflects my relative inexperience. I’ll be honest-I am figuring things out. As a one-man shop, work goes slowly; I work side jobs, and I’ve recently been married to a wonderful woman. I am very proud of the instruments I’ve built, and they are serving their working-musician owners as the tools they’re intended to be. I stand behind my instruments, as a craftsman and repairman, and I invite you to join me in my journey.

My goals as a builder? To build lifelong relationships with musicians, transform raw material into beautiful and functional guitars, and bring the best old guitars into the reach of working people like myself. I’d love to have a glass case full of old Gibsons and Martins; but rather than getting into investment banking, I’ll focus on what I do best and make them myself.

As a lifelong mechanic and tinkerer, I also work as a bicycle tech, and fix up old cars. If you follow my Instagram feed, you’ll get a pretty good idea of my day-to-day work.

Backround:

I grew up in beautiful Sonoma, California.  My father is a self-taught electrical engineer, ham radio operator, mechanic, sailor, and jack-of-all-trades.  I owe all of my curiosity, mechanical aptitude, and grit to that man.  I spent much of my younger years going backpacking, sailing the San Fransisco Bay and lakes around Northern CA, practicing Amateur Radio, and learning to weld/fabricate while fixing/modifying a series of older 4X4s (a ’79 IH Scout, a couple of ’85 4Runners, etc.).  I discovered road cycling and clawhammer banjo around age 18, and devoted myself to riding bikes, playing music, and living a healthier life.  After several years of community college, I moved to the east coast to attend Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.  I received a BA in Philosophy after my stint, but I figured at the time that my diploma should actually have said “Feminism, Farmwork, and Banjo”.  I discovered woodworking in the campus woodshop, making myself a walnut and sycamore fretless banjo neck for an old spunover rim…and I was hooked.  After finishing college in 2009, I found a place where my interests in music, cycling, and community could reach their full potential, and I found an exciting and welcoming community here in Portland, Oregon.  After several years of woodworking self-study and a year-long internship with Brooks Masten (an excellent Banjo Maker), I attended the Guitar Building and Repair Program at Minnesota Southeast Technical in Red Wing, MN.  Upon completion of the program in May 2013, I returned to Portland to continue my studies and build a shop.

Since returning to PDX, I’ve had the pleasure of working with excellent musicians, beautiful vintage instruments, a great repair shop (The 12th Fret), and have built a lovely little shop in Southeast Portland, where I am equipped to build and repair the instruments I love.  I share the building with two bicycle framebuilders, a printmaker, and another guitarmaker, Nate Wood.  I keep many irons in the fire, and keep myself very busy.  I also recently got engaged to my girlfriend of four years.  Happy times.

In my spare time (Ha!), I play old time/early bluegrass music with The Coupe Duet, The Portland Cut-Ups, The Jack Dwyer Band, and other various arrangements.  I have a weekly Sunday Brunch gig at P’s and Q’s Market with the wonderful violinmaker Jamie Herrmann.  I also enjoy fixing up old cars.  Recently, I partially restored a “barn find” 1955 Desoto Firedome, and my Wife and I are slowly restoring the once and future family car, a 1956 Chevrolet 210 Beauville Wagon.  I mostly get around Portland on a beautiful Trek 790 lugged steel road bike (heavily modified, of course). I like old stuff.

Please feel free to contact me with questions and inquiries:

Chris Miller
chris@cmillerguitars
707.721.6872 (current shop hours are Monday-Friday)

Please see more of my photography work, please visit my flickr page:

Chris Miller on Flickr

And follow me on Instagram:

https://instagram.com/cmillerguitars/

6 thoughts on “About Me

    • cmillerguitars says:

      Hi Jerry, I originally wanted to french polish with a straight shellac. I like the idea of a non-conversion finish that can be re-polished, repaired, or removed. However, in my test boards, I struggled to achieve a level of polish that I wanted, and the finish seemed altogether too easily damaged. This is in keeping with everything I’ve heard about straight shellac finishes. Ideally, I’d like to make a spirit varnish using other additives like copal and sanderac, and adjust for hardness and gloss that way. The Tru oil seemed to make a glossier, harder finish than the shellac I have on hand. I’m also going on what I’ve heard from some other makers, who often use tru oil as a topcoat over a wash of shellac. That all being said, since ‘bursting it last night, I have ended up padding on more shellac to the mandolin than I had planned. It is doing a great job of warming the too-cool tobacco burst, and after a scuff-sanding, it is going on so nicely that I may not use the tru oil after all. I have a wild hair to string it up for playing this weekend, so I might try it out and see how it holds up.

      Chris

  1. lynn says:

    Hi Chris
    Aunty Lynn here on Molokai
    I am thinking of getting another ukulele. One for the mainland and one for Molokai. I have a concert Oscar Schmidt that I like but wanted to try something new…. Any suggestions. Thinking of another concert
    Hope you are well
    Lynnie

  2. Diane says:

    I am thinking of purchasing a nice used electric PRS custom 24 artist package for my husband. It has a couple of scratches on it. One of the scratches appears to be into the wood a bit. Could you give me an idea if it would be repairable? What is a general price range for that type of work?
    Sincerely,
    Diane

    • cmillerguitars says:

      Hello Diane,
      Finish repair can be costly, depending on the damage, the type of finish, and on how flawless you would like the finished product. It is hard to say how much a finish repair might cost, without seeing the guitar in person. To give you an idea, a complete refinish on an electric guitar body costs around $600 here in Portland. You might bring the guitar by a reputable guitar repair shop in your area, as they can give you an exact estimate. I would suggest that, as buying a used guitar is buying an instrument with a history, maybe keeping the scratches as they are will acknowledge that this guitar has already been doing it’s job well, and will continue to do so. I hope this helps.
      Regards,
      Chris

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